I get to sit in the press box during UA football games. Yes, I am that special.
It's nice up there, with air conditioning, a cold-cut platter before games and all the soda you can drink. They used to serve Pepsi products, but last year, the UA sold its corporate soul to Coca-Cola for an extra $1.75, so now it's not quite as cool.
They switch to an inferior product and make extra money, and UA President Robert Shelton still wants a 10 percent tuition increase?! This guy's got to have carnie folk in his family tree.
For many seasons, the media horde was allowed to park right across the street from the stadium. I could get there 10 minutes before game time and be sitting in somebody else's seat in the press box by kickoff. Now, that parking lot is gone forever, with its space being used for the Student Rec Center addition being built. When I wrote for the Arizona Daily Wildcat back in college, I pushed hard for the establishment of a student recreation and exercise facility. Now, the concept is so successful that they have to expand, and I now have to walk an extra couple of blocks six or seven times a year because of it. There's an irony in there somewhere.
While walking north on Highland Avenue from the parking lot to the stadium for the Arizona State game, I noticed that there's a perfectly good parking lot at Mansfeld Middle School that's chained off and empty. There are only 13 spaces, but if the cars were parked side by side, you could probably get three times that many in there. Why not let the Honor Society or some other club at Mansfeld run the parking lot and make some money for a trip or for cool Mathlete jackets?
It was so cold in the press box that former UA softball pitcher Taryne Mowatt (who is trying to start a career in TV) complained about the temperature, and she's one of the toughest athletes in UA history.
The press box is a working area, with many people writing their stories as the game goes along. Accordingly, strict rules are in place. There is no cheering and no cell phones ringing, and any conversation is supposed to be kept at a whisper level--and then only with the person sitting next to you. The only outside noise piped in is the referee calling penalties. Otherwise, it's almost eerily quiet.
On most nights, it's almost like church in there. With the Phoenix media in town, it was more like the Peoples Temple. They acted like they lived in the jungle, and that made the rest of us want to take the one-way Kool-Aid Express. They were yelling back and forth and referring to athletes by their first names. (I've always hated that.)
Some sportswriters are really funny. However, the writers from Phoenix must have been at a different game, because the ones in the box were funny like a radiation leak. Remember Mystery Science Theater 3000? Well, I wish it could have been reversed, with the outside noise coming in, and the commentators on mute. Midway through the second quarter, after the UA had an ugly three-and-out, one of them loudly exclaimed, "ASU's going to win the game. You have to make plays, and the UA's not making plays."
I guess we could have all gone home then, but most of us decided to stick around for a while longer.
Early in the game, UA defender Corey Hall was in the right place at the right time and absolutely stuck an ASU receiver. The crowd appreciated the hit, but then Hall went into The Pansy Dance. Look at me; I made a tackle. Isn't that what you get paid for? Not "paid" like at the place where that other Stoops coaches, but, you know, scholarship paid and stuff.
I'm not one of those pathetic fans who believe that Babe Ruth was better than Albert Pujols, but I will say this: Today's football players are bigger, stronger and faster than their counterparts from 30 or 40 years ago, but they're not tougher, mentally or physically. Far too many of them are self-absorbed little bitches.
But not UA tight end Rob Gronkowski. He's a beast, even if he does wear gloves. If they ever do a remake of Blazing Saddles, he'll be the one punching the horse. And they won't even have to use a stunt horse.
On a serious note, from now on, the UA-ASU game's MVP will be given an award named for longtime sportswriter Bob Moran, who died this past spring. Bob was at the Arizona Daily Star when I was sports editor of the Wildcat, and he was only a little bit condescending to me. He never did tell me what that word "lagniappe" at the end of his column meant. I just figured it rhymed with "crap," and that's all I needed to know. He's gone far too soon.
The UA won and is going to the Las Vegas Bowl. That's good. But it should haunt these players and coaches forever that this team had a real chance to win every single game it played this year. When they look back, I hope mixed in with the jubilation is a little bit of, "Damn!"